Deepfake Identity Hijack – Synthetic Impersonation & Identity Theft – 2024

(Last Updated On: February 6, 2024)

Deepfake Identity Hijack – Synthetic Impersonation & Identity Theft

Understanding the latest wave of Impersonation Cybercrime using Deepfake AI Technology to Hijack Identities

How Scams Work – A SCARS Insight

Article Abstract

This SCARS RSN article delves into the rising threat of deepfake identity hijacking, exploring its methods, impacts on individuals and businesses, and proactive measures for mitigation.

Unlike traditional identity theft, deepfake identity hijacking crafts entirely new digital personas using stolen data and advanced AI technology. These fabricated identities pose risks ranging from financial fraud to brand impersonation and disinformation campaigns, with recent incidents illustrating the severity of the threat.

Businesses face significant challenges, including financial losses, brand damage, and operational disruptions, necessitating cybersecurity awareness, multi-factor authentication, and advanced detection tools. By understanding the threat landscape and implementing proactive security measures, businesses and individuals can mitigate the risks and protect their money, their identity, and their reputations in the evolving world of risks we face every day.

Deepfake Identity Hijack - Impact On Business & Individuals - 2024

Deepfake Identity Hijacking: The Next Frontier of Cybercrime and its Impact on Businesses and Individuals

The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and so are the threats it presents, especially with a new one from Deepfake Identity Hijacks.

While traditional methods of identity theft or impersonation remain prevalent, a new, more sophisticated form is emerging: deepfake identity hijacking. This worrying trend leverages deepfake technology and other advanced techniques to create digital doppelgangers, posing significant risks to individuals and businesses alike.

What is Deepfake Identity Hijacking?

Unlike traditional identity theft, which steals existing data, deepfake identity hijacking recreates existing identities.

Deepfake generative AI technology, is now fully capable of replicating voices and appearances with chilling accuracy in real-time. This is at the core of this new threat.

Cybercriminals use stolen personal information as a foundation, then layer deepfakes to create seemingly real individuals for criminal purposes.

While the term “deepfake identity hijacking” might sound like a futuristic sci-fi plot, it’s a stark reality impacting individuals and businesses today. But unlike traditional identity theft, which pilfers existing information, this sophisticated method concocts entirely new, synthetic impersonations of real individuals. This makes it ideal for relationship scams, government impersonation scams, fake celebrity endorsement scams, and BEC/CEO Scams.

Deepfake Identity Hijacking Fabrication

Imagine a criminal taking your name, social security number, and other personal details. Now, picture them weaving this data with artificial intelligence and deepfake technology to create a compelling digital doppelganger. This is the essence of deepfake identity hijacking. Instead of relying solely on stolen data, criminals craft entirely new impersonations with eerily real voices, faces, and even online footprints.

Not only does this deepfake impersonation process give them access to your identity, such as accounts, business, and connections, but also has to ability to do irreparable harm to your real-world reputation.

The Tools of Deepfake Identity Hijacking

Several technologies fuel this sophisticated crime:

  • Deepfakes: AI-powered tools seamlessly manipulate videos and audio, enabling the creation of realistic portrayals of someone saying or doing things they never did.
  • Synthetic media: This broader category encompasses deepfakes and other techniques to artificially generate realistic text, images, videos, audio, and even entire social media histories and websites.
  • Personal data: Stolen details like names, addresses, and social media profiles provide the foundation for building convincing identities.

The Methods of Deepfake Identity Hijacking

So, how do these fabricated identities wreak havoc? Here are some common tactics:

  • Financial Fraud: Hijacked identities can be used to open accounts, apply for loans, and make fraudulent transactions, costing individuals and businesses dearly.
  • Brand Impersonation: Deepfakes featuring executives or influencers can be used to spread misinformation, manipulate public opinion, and damage brand reputations.
  • Social Engineering: Imposters posing as colleagues, clients, or even loved ones can trick victims into revealing sensitive information or taking harmful actions.
  • Disinformation Campaigns: Fabricated identities can be used to sow discord, manipulate elections, and undermine trust in institutions.

The Perfect Example of Deepfake Identity Hijacking

A recent US$25 Million dollar corporate payment scam occurred in Hong Kong using this approach.

The scammers used deepfake identity hijacking and fabricated an entire Zoom call where only the employee transferring the money to the criminals was a real person, all the other participants were synthetic – they were real-time deepfakes generated by AI.

According to CNN:

Finance worker pays out $25 million after video call with deepfake ‘chief financial officer’

A finance worker at a multinational firm was tricked into paying out $25 million to fraudsters using deepfake technology to pose as the company’s chief financial officer in a video conference call, according to Hong Kong police.

The elaborate scam saw the worker duped into attending a video call with what he thought were several other members of staff, but all of whom were in fact deepfake recreations, Hong Kong police said at a briefing on Friday.

“(In the) multi-person video conference, it turns out that everyone [he saw] was fake,” senior superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching told the city’s public broadcaster RTHK.

Chan said the worker had grown suspicious after he received a message that was purportedly from the company’s UK-based chief financial officer. Initially, the worker suspected it was a phishing email, as it talked of the need for a secret transaction to be carried out.

However, the worker put aside his early doubts after the video call because other people in attendance had looked and sounded just like colleagues he recognized, Chan said.

Believing everyone else on the call was real, the worker agreed to remit a total of $200 million Hong Kong dollars – about US$25.6 million, the police officer added.

The case is one of several recent episodes in which fraudsters are believed to have used deepfake technology to modify publicly available video and other footage to cheat people out of money.

At the press briefing Friday, Hong Kong police said they had made six arrests in connection with such scams.

Chan said that eight stolen Hong Kong identity cards – all of which had been reported as lost by their owners – were used to make 90 loan applications and 54 bank account registrations between July and September last year.

On at least 20 occasions, AI deepfakes had been used to trick facial recognition programs by imitating the people pictured on the identity cards, according to police.

The scam involving the fake CFO was only discovered when the employee later checked with the corporation’s head office.

Hong Kong police did not reveal the name or details of the company or the worker.

Authorities across the world are growing increasingly concerned at the sophistication of deepfake technology and the nefarious uses it can be put to.

At the end of January, pornographic, AI-generated images of the American pop star Taylor Swift spread across social media, underscoring the damaging potential posed by artificial intelligence technology.

The photos – which show the singer in sexually suggestive and explicit positions – were viewed tens of millions of times before being removed from social platforms.

Deepfake Identity Hijacking - Impact On Business & Individuals - 2024

Imagine if One or More of the People on Your Zoom Calls were Deepfake Impersonations acting in Real-time!

The Ripple Effect of Deep Fake Identity Hijacking

The consequences of this new type of identity hijacking extend far beyond financial losses. The erosion of trust, reputational damage, and operational disruptions can cripple businesses and have wider societal impacts.

Examples of what it can do?

Deepfake identity hijacks can be used for a wide range of criminal purposes, exploiting the trust we place in familiar faces and voices. Here are some specific examples:

Financial Fraud:

  • Account takeover: Hijacked identities can be used to impersonate real people and gain access to their bank accounts, credit cards, or investment accounts.
  • Synthetic loan applications: Deepfakes can be used to create fake identities with seemingly real income and creditworthiness, allowing criminals to obtain fraudulent loans.
  • Investment scams: Imposter deepfakes of celebrities or financial experts can be used to promote bogus investment schemes and fleece unsuspecting victims.

Brand Damage and Disinformation:

  • Blackmail: Deepfakes can be used to create compromising situations featuring real people, used for extortion or blackmail against individuals or organizations.
  • Fake news and propaganda: Deepfakes of politicians, journalists, or public figures can be used to spread misinformation and manipulate public opinion for personal gain.
  • Discrediting competitors: Deepfakes can be used to damage the reputation of competitors by fabricating compromising activities or statements.

Social Engineering and Cybercrime:

  • Romance scams: Deepfakes can be used to create convincing online personas used to manipulate and exploit victims in romantic relationships for emotional and financial gain.
  • Business email compromise (BEC): Deepfakes of executives or employees can be used to trick victims into transferring funds or revealing sensitive information.
  • Social media manipulation: Deepfakes can be used to impersonate real people on social media to spread malware, spam, or phishing links.

Beyond these specific examples, deepfake identity hijacks can also be used for:

  • Identity theft: Creating entirely new synthetic identities for various criminal activities.
  • Cyber espionage: Impersonating individuals to gain access to sensitive information or systems.
  • Election interference: Creating deepfakes to influence voters or discredit candidates.

The potential for criminal application of deepfake identity hijacks is vast and constantly evolving. It’s crucial for individuals and organizations to remain vigilant, aware of these tactics, and implement preventative measures to minimize the risk of falling victim.

Avoiding these New Risks

For individuals

Sadly, for individuals, there are few solutions that will help detect and prevent the use of this technology.

The simplest approach is usually the best. That means simply having a code word that will help all parties to confirm that someone is real and not a deepfake fabrication. This will help avoid synthetic voice phone scams as well as conference call (Zoom/Facetime) synthetic participants.

For Corporations & Business

While the threats seem daunting, proactive measures can significantly mitigate the risks:

  • Cybersecurity Awareness and Education: Educating employees on spotting suspicious activity and protecting personal information is crucial.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication: Implementing stronger authentication methods beyond passwords adds an extra layer of security.
  • Advanced Detection Tools: Investing in solutions that can identify deepfakes and synthetic media can help prevent attacks before they cause harm.
  • Incident Response Plans: Preparing for potential attacks enables swift and effective responses, minimizing damage.

But again, as will individuals, the simplest approach will work too. That means simply having a code word that will help all parties to confirm that someone is real and not a deepfake fabrication. This will help avoid synthetic voice phone scams as well as conference call (Zoom/Facetime) synthetic participants.

Every business should have a basic authentication plan for anything involving communications and the movement of money!

Summary

Deepfake identity hijacking represents a significant evolution in the cybercriminal landscape, posing unique challenges for everyone. By understanding the threat, implementing robust security measures, and fostering a culture of awareness, we all can safeguard ourselves and our stakeholders from this emerging danger.

It’s vital to remember that staying ahead of cyber threats requires constant vigilance and adaptation. By actively addressing deepfake identity hijacking, businesses and individuals can protect their valuable assets and maintain trust in the digital age.

SCARS Resources:

Other Cyber Resources

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